Leicester Tigers saw off Bath 17-8 in an arm-wrestle of a game at Welford Road on Sunday.
Second-placed Bath's run of five successive league wins came to a grinding halt as an early Tom Youngs try and four Owen Williams penalties saw Leicester claim victory. George Ford kicked his team's solitary penalty, but he missed the 80th-minute conversion of Ross Batty's try that would have given the visitors a losing bonus point.
And it was a sweet result in more ways than one for Leicester, given that Bath crushed them 45-0 when the sides last met just over three months ago. On that occasion, injury-hit Leicester were a shambles as their west country hosts ran riot, but this time Bath found themselves in back-foot mode as the Tigers forwards dominated.
A feisty encounter saw neither pack take a backward step, and there were several off-the-ball skirmishes that kept the officials busy, yet Leicester's appetite for the battle proved far more evident throughout. Bath's high-profile rugby league recruit Sam Burgess, playing at outside centre, had a quiet afternoon on his first Premiership start in front of watching England head coach Stuart Lancaster, with little opportunity to display his attacking prowess.
As with all of a star-studded Bath back division, Burgess was kept at a safe distance by Leicester's tenacious defence, and try-scoring opportunities proved far and far between for one of the Premiership's most entertaining teams. Leicester, though, remain firmly in the play-off mix, with their early season struggles now well behind them.
Leicester welcomed back fit-again centre Anthony Allen and lock Graham Kitchener, but wing Blaine Scully was a late withdrawal, with Adam Thompstone replacing him. Elsewhere, prop Marcos Ayerza and his front-row colleague Youngs moved up from the bench after being on replacement duty for last weekend's thrilling 32-30 win against Sale Sharks.
Burgess apart, Bath's changes following a bonus point victory over Exeter eight days ago were all up-front as props Paul James and David Wilson, lock Dave Attwood and number eight Carl Fearns featured in a team seeking its sixth successive league victory.
Leicester replied within five minutes of an early Ford strike as Williams hauled them level after his first penalty attempt bounced back off the post, only for Bath to immediately infringe again when flanker Matt Garvey was punished for not rolling away. And the visitors then suffered a major injury blow when England centre Kyle Eastmond limped off - he was replaced by Ollie Devoto - which will have given Lancaster cause for concern less than five weeks before this season's RBS 6 Nations campaign begins.
Bath could not get out of their own half, and Leicester required no second invitation to keep the pressure on through their forwards, delivering a superbly-driven lineout that resulted in Youngs touching down. Williams drifted the conversion attempt wide, and then Bath hooker Rob Webber was warned following an incident with Tigers lock Geoff Parling as tempers continued to simmer, before Williams landed his second penalty for an 11-3 lead.
Bath weathered a considerable storm, defending brilliantly, before Burgess was unluckily denied his first Premiership try when referee Matt Carley ruled a forward pass by Devoto. Replays showed it to be a harsh call by the official. But Leicester quickly recovered their poise, and they ended the half on top territorially, trooping off eight points clear and good value for their interval advantage.
Williams completed his penalty hat-trick early in the second period, and Bath continued to be frustrated as they tried to make headway against a Tigers defence that had no intention of releasing its grip on the contest. Bath continued to push for an opening try as the half wore on, but Leicester held them out after a fourth Williams penalty opened up a 14-point advantage.
There was simply no way through for the visitors until Batty scored in the final minute, and it will be back to the drawing board for them against Recreation Ground visitors Wasps next weekend, with champions Northampton now six points clear as league leaders.